Pietro's Movie Review: THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN
Published: June 27, 2012 - 6:24am
It's been two weeks since I've seen The Amazing Spider-Man and it's still fresh on my mind. I had gone into the theater with a mentality that the film would very much have to impress me to garner high praise, and it absolutely did. This is the Spider-Man movie that I've been waiting years to see realized on screen and I have little doubt audiences will feel the same.
I have nothing against reboots or remakes in the general sense. Some properties are popular enough to merit franchise continuations outside the standardized sequel route, and there's nothing inherently wrong with that. That's not to say I fall all over myself in excitement when a franchise gets the reboot treatment, but I certainly don't write it off as bad/stupid/unnecessary until I've seen enough of the film to judge it for myself. This summer, movie goers will be faced with the most controversial genre reboot to date: The Amazing Spider-Man. The last series of Spider-Man films -- directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire in the title role -- were widely popular, global box office blockbusters, and they helped set the precedent that almost every comic book adaptation gets compared to. Not only that, but it's been only 10 years since the first film was released in theaters. Now, an unproven director and odd yet rather intriguing cast have assembled in an effort to retell a story we all feel we've seen before.
And they nailed it, not just in the wonderful execution of a fun yet darkly grounded story but in staying much more close to the comic book source material than any other live-action incarnation to date. The Amazing Spider-Man is by far the best Spider-Man film I've ever seen. As a longtime follower of Spidey comics and cartoons I consider myself hyper-critical of newer properties that feature New York City's web-slinging hero. Be it a new comic, animated series or a feature film, do it right or I won't give you my attention (read: money). This time, they absolutely deserve it.
Screenwriter James Vanderbilt and director Marc Webb inject a boatload of much needed heart into this film, which front and center is a character piece. It takes almost an hour before we even see Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker don the Spider-Man red and blue tights, and that's not disappointing in the slightest. Much like the best Spider-Man comics, this film is about Peter Parker, his journey of self discovery, interactions with friends and family and constant reminder that he is fallible. He's an every-man in every sense of the word. Garfield managed to capture that expertly. He's also given a ton of support by co-star Emma Stone as the equally intelligent and witty Gwen Stacy. She is by no means the quintessential damsel in distress. When these two share scenes it feels so natural it's almost too intimate to watch; like accidentally walking in on two people stealing away a moment meant only for themselves.
Rhys Ifans' portrayal of Dr. Curt Connors and his villainous counterpart The Lizard was fantastic. I found it easy to compare my enjoyment of his turn as that of Willem Dafoe's Norman Osborn/Green Goblin from Raimi's first Spider-Man film; but while Dafoe's Goblin was a let down because of the Power Rangers inspired green suit he sported, Ifans' Lizard is composed of beautifully rendered and at times terrifying CG effects. I was one of the many who scoffed at the promotional artwork and toy designs showing The Lizard, but in action the character looks perfect and I could not have been happier with it's execution.
Rounding out the main cast are Martin Sheen as Uncle Ben Parker, Sally Field as Aunt May Parker and Denis Leary as NYPD Captain George Stacy (Gwen's father). Much like Dr. Connors, these three also appeared in the previous Spidey films. Much like Dr. Connors, I enjoyed the new portrayals of the characters much more here. Sheen's Ben Parker has plenty more screentime to develop his relationship with Peter, both good and bad sides of it. This makes waiting for his inevitable death harder to wait for, and you may find yourself secretly hoping he can pull through. Field is a gem on screen as always, and -- thanks to her natural spunk coupled with her younger age -- offers a side of Aunt May that Rosemary Harris was lacking (the part that made her feel more like a one-dimensional, dotting grandmother). Leary is taking on the role briefly played in Spider-Man 3 by James Cromwell. His years embodying a hard-nosed and jaded firefighter on the hit series Rescue Me make him the perfect choice for the veteran NYPD officer. He doesn't disappoint in raising the blood pressure of his scenes, but also manages to take part in a few very funny bits (one in particular with Emma's Gwen).
The story found in this film is both straightforward and intricate. Peter is a high schooler who excels in science. His talent is innate, and we learn his father was one of the world's foremost genetics before disappearing with his mother when he was a young boy. Left in the care of his Uncle and Aunt, Peter grows to be a bit of an outsider who takes quiet pleasure in his photography hobby. When he formally meets the girl he's been pinning over Gwen Stacy, a schoolmate who is his scholastic equal, a series of events unfold that lead him on the path to becoming Spider-Man. All the while he struggles to garner answers to why his parents left him as a child. Has the story been changed from what we are used to seeing on film? Yes, but not moreso than we've already accepted in the previous films. Things have been changed to help the story along and those changes work. What more could you ask for? This movie takes its time getting to where it needs to go. It explains, with great detail, why things happen to and around Peter. This is an aspect that most superhero films completely miss their mark on, including Raimi's Spidey franchise. We know the hero will win the end. We know the villain will be defeated. Now show me how we get there and why all of that matters. Webb and Co. did and it solidifies the connection to this story so much more. My only gripe with the film overall is the build up to the final showdown, where The Lizard begins his melee of New York City, which felt a bit shoehorned with effects that weren't up to par compared to the character's other scenes. But even this is forgettable once the film reels you back and reminds you the characters are center stage here, not the action.
At the top of the list of my favorite things about this film: Andrew Garfield is Peter Parker. He touched upon nuances of the character that we have yet to see successfully applied on film. We get to see his genius at work as he builds his web shooters, creates his suit and assist Dr. Connors' in his lab. We get to see him interact with a female lead that is more than a talking piece of scenery who he has to rescue every few minutes. We see Peter Parker as a fleshed out and relatable character, not some outdated archetype. For those fans like me who felt the lack of sarcasm and wit in the previous three films left a big gaping hope in the Spider-Man character you won't feel the same way this go around. And just wait until you see his swinging around Manhattan. Practical effects, provided by the award winning stuntmasters Vic and Andy Armstrong along with their team, capture Spidey's agility and antics in a brilliant way. Sure, it may look a bit spastic and awkward in some scenes, but that's the point. It looks like a guy in a Spider-Man suit swinging like a madman through the bustling streets of New York and climbing every which way around buildings, not a CGI character that belongs in a video game.
I enjoyed The Amazing Spider-Man just as much as Marvel Studios' The Avengers, but for different reasons. While The Avengers was a non-stop thrill ride of action and adventure with a huge side of snarky wit, The Amazing Spider-Man is an intimate and emotional story, supplemented with fantastic effects and great action scenes. To top it off, the 3D aspect does a phenomenal job of enhancing the scenes that fit the format (sweeping city shots, action beats) while not detracting from others. You have to go into this film without a chip on your shoulder. Yes, it is a reboot. Yes, it features a retelling of the origin story. Yes, there have been updates to the mythos. None of that should give you pause. This film is a true Spider-Man story through and through, one I've been waiting years and years to see realized on screen, and it deserves your attention. I really can't wait to see it again.
The Amazing Spider-Man stars Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, with Martin Sheen and Sally Field. The film is directed by Marc Webb from a screenplay written by James Vanderbilt, based on the Marvel Comic Book by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. Laura Ziskin, Avi Arad, and Matt Tolmach are producing the film in association with Marvel Entertainment for Columbia Pictures, which will open in theaters everywhere in 3D on July 3, 2012.
The Amazing Spider-Man is the story of Peter Parker (Garfield), an outcast high schooler who was abandoned by his parents as a boy, leaving him to be raised by his Uncle Ben (Sheen) and Aunt May (Field). Like most teenagers, Peter is trying to figure out who he is and how he got to be the person he is today. Peter is also finding his way with his first high school crush, Gwen Stacy (Stone), and together, they struggle with love, commitment, and secrets. As Peter discovers a mysterious briefcase that belonged to his father, he begins a quest to understand his parents' disappearance – leading him directly to Oscorp and the lab of Dr. Curt Connors (Ifans), his father's former partner. As Spider-Man is set on a collision course with Connors' alter-ego, The Lizard, Peter will make life-altering choices to use his powers and shape his destiny to become a hero.